Pet ownership has been shown to decrease morbidity and mortality in several aspects of health but has not been studied in chronic pain patients. We evaluate whether subjects who underwent spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and own a pet have improved outcomes compared to non-pet owners.
After obtaining IRB approval, we re-contacted 38 subjects who underwent SCS surgery with preoperative and 1-year postoperative data on Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Pain Catastrophizing scale (PCS). We examined influence of pets and pet ownership-specific behaviors on improvement in SCS outcomes.
Patients included 24 males/14 females with a mean age of 59.9 ± 11.5 years. At mean follow-up of 12.2 months (range 10-14), there were improvements in NRS, ODI, BDI, PCS and MPQ. Twenty subjects owned pets and 18 did not; all believed pet ownership could improve health. Pet owners improved more on NRS-right now (p = 0.05) and BDI (p = 0.05), and were more satisfied with SCS (p = 0.04). No significant improvement was seen in ODI, MPQ, or PCS. However, PCS did improve in pet owners who exercised their pet (PCS-total, p < 0.01; PCS-helplessness, p < 0.01; PCS-rumination, p = 0.05; PCS-magnification, p = 0.02).
We provide preliminary evidence that pet ownership is associated with improved pain, depression and SCS satisfaction. Exercising with a pet also appears to be beneficial in limiting pain catastrophizing. Pets show promise as a novel means to improve patient SCS outcomes.

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